Knowing how to flirt is both an art and a science. Here is what works and what doesn’t according to science:
1. Ask interesting questions, but don’t interrogate. Most people’s favorite topic of conversation? Themselves. A recent study conducted by the Harvard University Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience Lab found that levels of dopamine (a.k.a. the happy hormone) increase when subjects talk about themselves, versus when they talk about the same subject but in relation to other people. Bottom line: Waxing on about yourself is inherently pleasurable. So when you’re on a date, inquire about topics that genuinely interest you, but find common ground. Build on what he says. Avoid firing out checklists or predictable questions like, “Where are you from?” and “What do you do?” Ask open-ended questions instead.
2. Uncross Your Arms. Non-verbal cues speak volumes, and the right body language projects confidence and warmth. Make eye contact, smile, laugh, lean in.
3. Wear natural-looking makeup. Studies show that men prefer a lighter makeup look on women—more natural than what most women think. Resist the urge to wear a dark, smoky eye or daring red lip, especially if that’s not in your comfort zone.
4. Actively listen. Truly listening involves hearing what the person is saying and also paying attention to their non-verbal communication. Respond by paraphrasing and reflecting on the conversation to move it forward—it shows you genuinely care about what they have to say. Resist the temptation to interrupt immediately and hijack the conversation: “Oh you like skiing? Me too! I just came back from heli-skiing in British Columbia.”
5. Avoid your favorite topic. It’s counterintuitive but makes sense—otherwise you’ll probably end up talking too much.
6. Accentuate the positive. Highlighting the good stuff going on in your life enables the other person to see you in the best possible light. But don’t over do it—check yourself, and assess whether you are dominating the conversation.
7. Ladies, be direct. Research suggests men appreciate a direct statement of intention, “Let’s get together next Monday,” more than a subtle request or sexual innuendo. Studies show that oftentimes, women don’t immediately provide cues that express interest, thereby leaving the potential date in the dark.
8. Exit gracefully. Don’t let the conversation drag. If you feel an awkward silence coming on, politely excuse yourself. Leave them wanting more.
Words: Dr. Samantha Boardman is a Clinical Instructor in Psychiatry and Assistant Attending Psychiatrist at Weill-Cornell Medical College. Her expertise is Applied Positive Psychology, which focuses on enhancing positive emotions, experiences and relationships. She’s also the founder of Positive Prescription, our go-to on how to lead your happiest life—we highly suggest you sign up for The Weekly Dose.